Blue Nose Marathon banking on vaccination success as it moves to November

·2 min read

Organizers of the Scotiabank Blue Nose Marathon have decided to push the popular Halifax race weekend into November and scale it back in hopes that it will be safer for participants.

The event, typically held in the spring, is the biggest race in Atlantic Canada and draws thousands of people to the city.

Last year, it was forced to move to a virtual format because of COVID-19 restrictions.

While it worked well, the race's executive director says runners are anxious to get back to real races.

"Our goal is to put on an event, put on a safe event, and welcome people back to the start line," said Sherri Robbins.

Robbins said the marathon organizers have opted for Nov. 6-7 in hopes that the vast majority of the population will have been vaccinated for COVID-19. But even with that protection, a number of COVID protocols will be in place.

"What we're used to seeing at the start line of Blue Nose is thousands of people toeing the start line really close together," she said. "Our start lines are going to look very different moving forward. We want to keep everyone safe so physical distancing will be required."

Runners will be required to wear masks at the start of the race, and they'll receive staggered start times to help space out participants through the events.

"The benefit of chip time versus gun time is that people don't need to be right there at the start line, toeing the line."

The number of participants will be capped. Hand sanitizer will be available on the course.

Robbins said the Valley Harvest Marathon was staged last October, allowing pandemic health protocols to be tested. That has created confidence that a smaller–scale Blue Nose will be safe.

"We're not going to do anything that puts our community at risk," she said. "We need to move back to racing, to having our events back, we know the mental and physical benefits of physical activity."

While the race is a benefit to participants, it's also significant to local charities.

Robbins said last year's virtual program raised $220,000 for charity, significantly down from the $600,000 that was raised in 2019. But she calls that a great success considering the challenges.

While 2021 will be small, she said they're happy that they can take the first steps toward rebuilding.

"We're excited. It's a lot of fun."